Archive for May, 2013

Dukkah

May 31, 2013

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Every so often, a “new” item hits the culinary scene and suddenly foodies everywhere are talking about it. This recent discovery has been used in Egyptian cooking for centuries. Dukkah, derived from the word “dakka” means “to crush,” and it is essentially a blend of crushed nuts and spices often sprinkled over flatbread dipped in  olive oil. Since the variation of ingredients is so vast, it is only right that it’s uses are equally as broad.

The mainstream store bought version from Trader Joe’s contains almonds, sesame, fennel, coriander and anise seeds and kosher salt. It adds wonderful flavor when sprinkled over salmon filets, and surely it would be an enhancement to roasted vegetables, chicken or lamb.

While it’s easy and economical to let Trader Joe’s make it, making your own would allow for some variation in ingredients. Here is a simple base (un)recipe to get you started. Let your imagination run wild as you add flavors to enhance the simplest of dishes.

Dukkah:

1/2 cup toasted nuts, crushed. (put them in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin for easy crushing)

Try almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts or even pistachios as a starter.

1/4 cup  sesame seeds 

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 tablespoon cumin,anise,or coriander seeds (or any mixture of seeds that suit your taste)

1/2 teaspoon or more kosher salt or sea salt

Consider adding dried herbs to the blend: mint, tarragon, thyme or basil

Toast the seeds lightly in a dry skillet, tossing to avoid over browning. Cool, and grind lightly in a spice grinder so they are crushed, but not turned to powder. Add to the nuts and mix. If you don’t have a grinder, give them a once over with the rolling pin before adding to the nuts. Transfer to a glass jar and enjoy!

photo: Indigo Jones

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Unrecipe of the Week:What to do With Beet Greens

May 30, 2013

A stroll through the Union Square Greenmarket today yielded rainbow baby fingerling potatoes, some asparagus and a huge bundle of beets with the teeniest, tiniest little beets settled at the bottom of an enormous bunch of leaves.

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Determined to use them, I washed and dried the leaves to await their fate.

It seemed like they could be used as one would use kale; massaged in a salad or sautéed lightly in olive oil. That assumption was correct, and our roasted beets were the perfect accompaniment.

Roasted Beets on a Bed of Sautéed Beet Greens:

Remove the beets from the leaves, and cut off the ends. Scrub them well, as it not necessary to peel them before roasting. (Especially these little tiny ones!)

Sprinkle with olive oil, and roast covered in a 400-degree oven for about 40-60 minutes until they are tender, depending on how large the beets are.

Set aside.

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Wash and dry the beet greens, discarding the thick stems. Heat a little olive oil in a pan. Add a chopped shallot, and a diced clove of garlic and stir. Sauté the beet greens for a few minutes until wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the greens on a plate. Top with the roasted beets and drizzle with a little aged balsamic vinegar.

We also sprinkled a few toasted walnut pieces and some goat cheese over the beets to make it a heartier dish.  Enjoy!

Photos: indigo jones

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Drink Up!

May 29, 2013

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As the temperatures rise, it’s important that we up our fluid intake, especially when working out in the heat.

There are many ways to hydrate out there, and the supermarket shelves are filled with sports drinks, bottled waters, and enhanced waters to aid in that process. With all the choices, it can be a bit daunting.

How do you know when you need a sports drink to help replace lost fluids and electrolytes, and when good old H2O the best choice?

Gatorade, the most popular of the sports drinks on the market, was created to help replenish fluids and electrolytes of the University of Florida football team. An assistant coach was puzzled by the players extensive weight loss during games, (up to 18 pounds!) coupled with their lack of urine output.  In testing players, it was concluded that they were not only sweating out all of their body fluids, but also their energy and stamina were depleted, due to electrolyte imbalance, low blood sugar and low blood volume. At that time it was thought that drinking during exercise was detrimental to performance. The coach consulted with experts who disagreed.
The solution was to rehydrate them with water, as well as replace some of the salt and sugar lost in the process. Lemon was added to make the drink more palatable, and Gatorade was born.

If you are working out in the heat, with the intensity of the Florida football team, than a sports drink like Gatorade is for you. But chances are, most of us are working out for shorter periods of time, in more tolerable conditions. If you are working out at a very high intensity for more than 1 hour, (think marathon training runs) a sports drink might be in order.

Remember that these drinks contain calories. The average sports drink contains 50-100 calories per serving, or 125-250 calories per container. They are very high in sodium and sugars, and are highly processed with chemical additives and colorings, found to be hazardous to one’s health.

Flavor enhanced waters can be valid choices, since the flavoring often makes us consume more than we might if faced with plain old water. These too come with artificial baggage, and could serve to delete the benefits of your hard work.

Glaceau Vitamin Water and SoBe Vitamin Enhanced Water are among the best, using natural flavors and containing about 70 calories per container. They do come in plastic bottles, which carry BPA risks of their own. While the zero calorie-enhanced waters do not add sugars and calories, they do add artificial sweeteners and colorings.

That brings us back to water. Filtered tap water served in a glass or metal water bottle is almost always the best choice for replenishing before, during and after a workout.  Guidelines for athletes suggest 15-20 oz. in the 2-3 hours leading up to a workout, and 8 oz. about 15 minutes before. It is suggested to drink another 8 oz. for every 15 minutes of exercise, and to consume 8 oz. of a sports drink for sessions exceeding 90 minutes. Experts suggest weighing yourself before and after a very strenuous workout, and drinking another 20 oz. of fluid for every pound lost.

Be sure to tailor this to your size and activity level, to avoid discomfort during training.

Adding your own flavorings to tap water can make the drink a little more interesting, and still maintain it’s stellar health status.

Try adding a squirt of lemon or lime to your bottle, or toss in ice cubes with berries other fruits frozen into them. Mix up a de-bloating pitcher of spa water (previously featured here) or try this recipe via Men’s Health for a healthy, homemade sports drink:

DIY Sport Drink:

Dissolve ¼ cup sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt in ¼ cup water.

Add ¼ cup of orange juice or other 100% fruit juice, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 3 ½ cups of water to the mixture. Chill and enjoy!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Hot Tips Tuesday: How to Treat a Blister

May 28, 2013

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As the weather finally turns to summer, our feet long to slip into sandals. It doesn’t matter if they are old or new, somehow, the first few wearings of the season always result in blisters.

According to Prevention Magazine, the cure is in your bathroom cabinet.

Applying Listerine to the blister with a cotton ball three times a day is said to speed the drying and healing time of a blister significantly.

While I haven’t tested this one out yet, I am sure I will be trying it soon, if the temperature continues to rise!

photo:Glasshouse Images 

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Closet Case

May 25, 2013

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I am home on a dreary day, attempting to clean out my closet and drawers. Now that everything is scattered across the bed and floors, I have completely lost interest in this project. Closet cleaning is a chore, but a worthwhile one. Once it’s done, it is so much easier to get dressed in the morning. Seasonal closet switching is also a great time to evaluate what you have and what strategic purchases will make everything you own feel new again.

As a diversion from this daunting and tedious chore, I decided to share my closet cleaning wisdom.

As you remove things from hangers and drawers, separate them into distinct piles:

Keep, donate, toss, repair or remodel.

Keepers are clearly those things that you intend to hang onto. Practice tough love by asking yourself a few questions:

Do I love this? Do I wear this? Does it flatter me? If the answers are no, move it along to the next pile.

Donate items are those in decent condition that someone less fortunate might be able to use. Single socks, tattered tee shirts and nasty undergarments don’t fall into that category. Those get tossed.

Anything that needs repair should go into a separate pile. Take the time now to sew those loose buttons, or unraveling hems. Trust me, you don’t want to do it when you are racing to get out the door in the morning.

The last pile is the most interesting. Are there things you own that could benefit from a makeover? Use a discerning eye and a good tailor to up-cycle items that are good quality and fit well.

I took some trousers that hadn’t been worn in a few years, and cut them into shorts. The winter versions became wardrobe staples when paired with tights, boots and chunky sweaters or blazers. Summer shorts that were long and bordering on dumpy got shortened or tapered into a more modern silhouette that gave them new life. Skirts and dresses can be shortened, and pants can get cropped or slimmed down to be more relevant or flattering.

Now comes the unpleasant but critically important part. (This is where I got bored.) Pack it up, or put it back.

Sweep closet floors and shelves, and wipe down the inside of drawers to start with a clean, fresh backdrop.

Pack up all of the off-season items so that they can be used next season without needing to be cleaned or pressed, if possible.

Pack up the donate items and make an itemized list, if your charity of choice requires it.  Take the “tossables” place them in the garbage can, and don’t look back!

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Take what is left and transfer it all to matching hangers. The disarray caused by a jumble of different hangers is distracting. Invest in hangers that can be used over and over again, and give all those wire hangers back to your dry cleaner to recycle. Durable plastic hangers are inexpensive, and well worth the money spent.

As you put things back, place them in the closet or drawers by category. It makes things look neater, and items easier to find.

Once the purging and organizing is under control, it’s time to make “looks.” Put together a few perfect go-to outfits and make sure you have all of the elements to make them work. This is the perfect time to assess what you have and what you need. Are you using the same pants or layering piece for every outfit? If so, it’s time to add a few other variations. Would everything be perfect, if only you had a certain type of shoe or accessory? Add it to the shopping list. Try to avoid the common trap of having a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. Either add the pivotal elements to making your wardrobe work, or go back and reassess if it could be of better use in the donate or remodel bin.

If you are a little bit “fashion challenged,” take photos and create a “look book” to remind you of your newly created outfits. As you expand your wardrobe, think about adding pieces that fit into your current mix and enhance what you have.

Flip through magazines and fashion blogs to see what the must haves of the season are, and consider adding some of them to your wardrobe to keep it fresh and updated. A few well-placed additions can make everything you own seem new again.

It’s a lot of work, but once it’s done, you will be glad you persevered and accomplished the task.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have my own piles to deal with. Ughhh!

photos: glasshouse images

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Book Event

May 24, 2013

If you are in New York, please join us for a special reading from the book “Carried in Our Hearts: The Gift of Adoption” by Dr. Jane Aronson, and a vast array of contributors, including yours truly. Barnes + Noble will be donating 20% of their proceeds to Dr. Aronson’s wonderful foundation Worldwide Orphans, who help make the lives of the children left behind more fulfilling.

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I hope to see you there! Warning: It’s BYO Kleenex. These stories are sure to touch your heart!

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Skewering

May 21, 2013

4093600783Isn’t it kind of odd to take grilling advice from a city girl who has never owned a barbecue, or a backyard to put it in?
Trust me, this makes perfect sense…

When putting food on skewers to grill this holiday weekend, use two skewers, placed about 1/2″ apart from one another. This will secure the food, and prevent it from swirling around on the stick when you turn them.

Yeah, you’re welcome.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Nutrition Fiction

May 20, 2013

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While flipping through a popular health and wellness magazine today, I was a little surprised at some of their nutritional suggestions.

I am an armchair expert, admittedly with no formal training in nutrition and look to articles written by others to provide me with much of my information. Through this process, I have a heightened awareness of what is good for you, and what is not. Clearly, some of what I read falls into the latter category.

First up on the agenda: The 2013 Healthy Food Awards.

In this segment, 175 readers blind tested foods that the editors and contributing registered dieticians selected and deemed healthy.

The winners all came in a package, something that generally doesn’t spell “super food” to me.

With categories like “best potato chip”, “best nuked popcorn” and “best chewy granola bar” on the list, it’s hard to grasp the concept of these foods being healthy.

The next page featured celebrity chefs’ recipes using kale, which they dubbed “the holy grail of health.”

Alex Guarnaschelli’s Kale and Watercress Soup has white potatoes, whole milk and heavy cream. It is 252 calories per serving.

I don’t know about you, but the soups I usually enjoy are closer to 80-120 calories per serving. The potatoes, when pureed, should be enough to give the soup a creamy texture, making the heavy cream and milk unnecessary. Using broth instead of the dairy, would probably add more flavor to the soup, and a fraction of the calories and fat.

Instead of the suggested garnish of low fat sour cream, how about recommending a dollop of fat free Greek yogurt? It is lower in calories and fat than the sour cream, and is higher in protein and contains healthy probiotics.

As an avid and well-informed reader, I am concerned that a magazine of this type, would feature foods that are processed, high in saturated fat, and not the best, healthiest versions available. This is not a food magazine, where the flavor and ingredients take center stage, nutritional aspects be damned.

This is a magazine about healthy eating, fitness and wellness. They owe it to their readers to provide them with informed choices. High fat, high calorie soup is not healthy, just because it has a trendy super-food in it.

Processed foods laden with preservatives, huge amounts of sodium and a few unpronounceable ingredients, often in potentially toxic packages, are not healthy, just because they are organic, or lower in calories than their counterparts.

So how does the average consumer get real information about the seemingly healthy foods that are not in fact, as healthy as they seem?

Let me introduce you to a not so secret weapon called Fooducate.
Fooducate is a website and an app for smart phones that offers nutritional profiles culled from a huge database of supermarket foods.  The free app allows you to scan the food’s barcode, and it provides a breakdown of the item’s nutritional data from a list of ingredients to calories, fat and sodium contents, chemicals and preservatives, information about what makes it a good or bad choice, and sums it up with a letter grade. It is a valuable resource for those who want to make wise decisions in the food aisles. The app also offers daily tips, and can help zero in on gluten free or diabetic friendly foods as well.

Perhaps the experts featured in my magazine might benefit from swiping a few of the foods they list, before awarding them best healthy food status.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Vampire Weekend

May 17, 2013

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Garlic is not only tasty, but it’s also good for your health. Studies have shown that consuming garlic, from a supplement or the actual plant is proven to reduce blood pressure as much as some prescription drugs. Eating four or more cloves per day, is also thought to lower bad cholesterol (LDL)by 9% and the risk of colon cancer by 30%.

The downside of garlic is the pungent odor on your breath, which can linger for several days. Unless you are looking to fend off a vampire attack, that can be an unpleasant side effect. According to a new study in the Journal of Food Science, drinking a glass of low fat milk along with your garlic heavy meal can keep your breath smelling fresh. Researchers are also testing the effects of lemon juice and green tea, in preventing the dreaded garlic breath.

So, go ahead and indulge in a garlicky meal, just be sure to drink your milk. Your bones, and your significant other will thank you.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Get a “Whif” of This

May 15, 2013

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What if you could just inhale your coffee, getting a quick caffeine buzz, rather than actually drink it? How about getting your chocolate fix, with out the calories?
A new product called “Le Whif,” allows you to do just that.

Developed by Harvard University professor David Edwards, who pioneered inhaled insulin; Le Whif is an inhaler for the senses.

The plastic “puffer” is placed between your lips, and tiny particles small enough to become airborne, but too large to enter the lungs, descend upon the tongue to offer the taste and sensation of eating chocolate or drinking coffee.

Watching video footage of people enjoying Le Whif out socially, is reminiscent of other ‘inhalable” substances illegally enjoyed at clubs and parties.

In an attempt to bring a healthy vibe to the product, the company has also introduced breathable vitamins.

The price of huffing your treats isn’t cheap…each lipstick tube like canister costs about $2.50.

Personally, I’ll pass. How about you? Would you try Le Whif?


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